As Internet usage widens, Bollywood is turning to the Net to create a buzz around its movies.

Swetha Kannan

`There was a time when producers felt Web sites should be paying them for using their content. But now, the Internet is a huge promotion tool and producers are willing to pay to reach out to a particular audience.'

K

ya bhidu, apun se baat karne ka? Chal, phataphat add kar le apun ko!

" says Munnabhai in his characteristic lingo.

A rough translation of it goes like this: Wanna chat with me? Add me as your buddy ASAP. Well, this is not any dialogue from the latest Bollywood comedy

Lage Raho Munnabhai

but actually a teaser ad online. If you are wondering what all this means, log on to msn.co.in and scroll down to the `Specials' column. Enter the world of Munnabhai and his friends ... add Munnabhai as your buddy and get cracking.

All you have to do is this: Download Windows Live Messenger. This lets you add the Munnabhai Bot on to your contacts list, answer his riddles and win exciting gifts. And while you are at it, you can also explore other links on the site that give you all the info you ever wanted to know about

Lage Raho ...

And it is not just Munnabhai who is embracing the Internet!

According to estimates, there are 38.5 million Indians online. About 3.6 million homes in the country have a personal computer and about 1.5 million of them are powered by broadband. About 20 million Indians live outside the country and most of them use the Internet. And these numbers are only set to grow.

With Internet usage increasing by the day, Bollywood moviemakers are slowly waking up to the possibility of exploiting the Internet to give their movies a slick tech edge.

Movie sites may not be a new phenomenon, but movie promotion certainly is with film producers queuing up online to market their movies. And on offer are smarter and interactive sites with activities galore - games, contests and blogs - with superior multimedia effects and crisper audio/video packing quite a punch.

Tapping multiplex audiences

Industry observers say that to tap the growing multiplex audience - which is young, Net-savvy and with money to spend - producers need to market their movies online.

Says Rajnish R., Head - Digital Marketing Revenue and Strategic Business, MSN India: "People who use the Internet are twice likely to go watch movies in multiplexes (than those who do not). Indians abroad go online to read movie reviews before they book a ticket or buy the DVD. So, the adoption of online media is attractive to new-age producers, who themselves are Net-savvy."

Says Tanvi Modi, Vice-President (Marketing), Movie Talkies, a media agency for the entertainment industry which is instrumental in getting film-makers online: "There was a time when producers felt Web sites should be paying them for using their content. But now, Internet is a huge promotion tool and producers are willing to pay to reach out to a particular audience."

Movie Talkies has worked with several movies such as

Lage Raho Munnabhai, Anthony Kaun Hai (AKH), Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (KANK)

, and

Rang De Basanti

(RDB)

.

An average promotion on MSN India could cost Rs 8 lakh -10 lakh.

Says Preeti Desai, Chief Operating Officer - Digital Business, Hungama, which has developed sites for movies such as

Home Delivery

and

Corporate

: "Indiafm (a division of Hungama) attracts marketing budgets of Rs 50,000-12 lakh depending on whether they (film-makers) are seeking limited burst for Indian audience or a specific period burst to reach the NRI audience."

Symbiotic relationship

So, what are the advantages online? Nikhil Panchamiya, producer,

Anthony Kaun Hai (AKT)

, says it made sense to promote it online, especially for a movie like

AKT

with its urban theme.

"On TV, the ad comes and vanishes, but on the Net the promotion is up there for a period of time and can be accessed any time. This medium can no longer be ignored," says Panchamiya.

Adds Rajnish: "While the print media moves on after the first week of the movie's release, Internet gives longevity to the movie ... it helps sustain the excitement."

And it works the other way too. The Internet too rides on the excitement Bollywood movies generate.

Bollywood is becoming the "default culture of the country; it is easily marketable," says Rajnish.

Which explains why movie-related content is high on sites such as MSN India, Rediff and Sify and the traffic that these movies sites get indicates that a lot of time is spent online on movie research.

Says Desai, "Bollywood movie sites developed by us (Hungama) attract 1 million-12 million page views a month. Average time spends on a movie site range from 14-32 minutes."

Innovation and interaction

But plain information will not suffice as innovation and interaction are key to engaging the Net user. For instance, to promote

KANK

, MSN ran the entire song `Where's the party tonight' on its desktop TV; it also designed a theme pack on Messenger based on characters from the movie.

While

RDB's

characters wrote interactive blogs on MSN Spaces,

AKT

ran an online contest with the winners meeting the cast of the film.

Brands also log on to the online platform by associating themselves innovatively with movies. Recently,

Corporate

ran a promotion on its site, www.corporatethefilm.com, with its brand partner Lenovo giving away a laptop to one lucky winner of an espionage game run on the site.

The future seems to be definitely headed online with players willing to go the extra mile.

"We want to explore the potential of desktop TVs, see if we can break movie promos online first, even before they get onto television or other media," says Modi of Movie Talkies. Till then, keep surfing this space!

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 21, 2006)
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